In his powerful new book, Neutering the CIA: Why Us Intelligence Versus Trump Has Long-term Consequences, former CIA analyst John Gentry discusses how the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) agenda has harmed national security by elevating the goals of left-wing identity politics as paramount in the selection and promotion of officers. For example, late last month, the Financial Times revealed that a CIA officer posted pro-Palestinian images on her Facebook page and a selfie photo with the caption “Free Palestine.”
The agency officer, later identified as Amy McFadden, reportedly posted at least one of these images to the Internet after the horrific October 7, Hamas attack on Israel in which more than 1,300 Jews were killed by Hamas terrorists, many of them raped and mutilated, and more than 250 taken hostage.
According to the New York Post, two weeks after the Hamas terrorist attack, the senior CIA official “changed her cover photo to an image of a man waving a Palestinian flag in a keffiyeh-patterned shirt — a design euphemistically referred to as a symbol of Palestinian ‘solidarity’ popularized by the late Palestine Liberation Organization terrorist-in-chief Yasser Arafat.”
But McFadden is hardly the only example. A State Department employee publicly accused President Biden of being “complicit in genocide” by providing military assistance to our ally Israel. Sylvia Yacoub, a foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of Middle East Affairs, tweeted directly at the President with his handle “@POTUS,” and also tweeted directly at the Vice President, “Embarrassingly out of touch @VP,” after Vice President Kamala Harris met with the Prime Minister of the U.K., our closest ally.
It is important to note that these are not obscure bureaucrats. McFadden is one the Agency’s most senior officials, currently serving as Associate Deputy Director of the CIA Directorate of Analysis, a position overseeing thousands of analysts. Prior to this top CIA post, McFadden oversaw the production of the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), arguably the most important U.S. intelligence community analysis product. Yacoub is a graduate of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, one of America’s most prestigious graduate schools that feeds thousands of its graduates into U.S. national security jobs. She also spent three years working at the Obama Foundation and more than a year working on the Hillary Clinton campaign for President. It was on the strength of these credentials she was selected to serve, not as a political appointee, but as a State Department careerist.
The rot we are experiencing in government isn’t just in failing to screen for individuals who hold views antithetical to the United States, its interests, and its allies. It is also how the embedded ideology in the U.S. government promotes them not based on excellence in their work but on whether they share the DEI movement’s radical ideology.
People with experience working in the U.S. Intelligence Community, like myself, might be inclined to ask two questions. How did individuals entrusted with our nation’s most sensitive national security information demonstrate so little common sense that they would publicly attack our president and vice president and post pro-Hamas material on their social media? And how is it they were hired in the first place into nonpartisan career positions and, in the case of McFadden, could advance so quickly to two of the CIA’s most prestigious positions?
I ask these questions because I know that top CIA jobs like leadership of the Directorate of Analysis and the PDB staff historically have gone to analysts who have distinguished themselves over many years in high-profile and challenging assignments where they produced critical and incisive analyses.
Both McFadden and Yacoub appear to be partisan officials who advanced their careers by punching the right career tickets. This is how the far-left ideology of DEI is undermining our national security and foreign relations at the CIA, the State Department, and countless other national security agencies.
CIA Director John Brennan began the corruption of the CIA career service by imposing radical DEI personnel policies in 2013. The Trump Administration never repealed these controversial policies and they remain in place today. As a result, a former senior CIA official recently told me that “the Directorate of Analysis promotes faster than anywhere else and it’s been a problem for a long time.” This comment tracks with another observation by Gentry, who wrote that “excessively rapid promotion rates raised rank structures and entitlement expectations” for a huge number of employees hired by the CIA after 9/11.
McFadden’s inappropriate pro-Hamas Facebook posts have made her a symbol of this mismanagement of the CIA workforce. This incident has wider implications for U.S. national security and the U.S. taxpayer because it suggests the agency is giving critical high-paid jobs to mediocre and incompetent employees for political and social engineering reasons instead of promoting the most qualified personnel to help protect American national security in an increasingly dangerous world.
A former CIA officer told me after reading a draft of this article: “The Obama era policies have had a significant negative impact on [CIA] morale, mission, focus, and accomplishments. In fact, they have fueled mediocracy and politicization, fed the weaponization of HR against our best officers, and degraded the ranks of A-players.”
If there is a new administration in January 2025, it will have its work cut out for it to reverse the damage done to U.S. intelligence agencies by DEI and woke personnel policies begun by the Obama Administration which continue today.
In the meantime, the congressional intelligence oversight committees should immediately begin investigations to assess the extent these radical policies have undermined the capabilities and effectiveness of America’s intelligence agencies and propose reforms to reverse this damage.
Fred Fleitz is vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council chief of staff, CIA analyst and a House Intelligence Committee staff member.